It takes intrepid courage to live according to the truth, and there is something of martyrdom in every truly Christian life, if we take martyrdom in its original sense as a “testimony” to the truth, sealed in our own sufferings and in our blood.
Being and doing become one, in our life, when our life and being themselves are a “martyrdom” for the truth. In this way we identify ourselves with Christ, Who said: “For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth” (John 18:36). Our vocation is precisely this: to bear witness to the truth of Christ by laying down our lives at His bidding. Therefore, He added to the words we have just quoted: “Everyone that is of the truth, heareth my voice.” And in another place He said: “I know my sheep, and they know me” (John 10:14).
This testimony need not take the special form of a political and public death in defense of Christian truth or virtue. But we cannot void the “death” of our own will, of our own natural tendencies, of the inordinate passions of our flesh and of our who selfish “being,” in order to submit ourselves to what our own conscience tells us to be the truth and the will of God and the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ.
Therefore asceticism is unavoidable in Christian life. We cannot escape the obligation to deny ourselves. This obligation is made inevitable by the fact that the truth cannot live in us unless we freely and by our own volition recognize and cast out falsity from our own souls.
This is the one job that we alone can do, and we must have the courage to do it if we wish to live as we were meant to live, and find out true being in God. No one else can turn our minds to the truth, renounce error for us, convert our wills from selfishness to charity and from sin to God. The example and the prayers of others may help us to find our way in this work. But we alone can do it.
~ Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island
[Art: Luke Sammons]